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Hiking In The Heat Of Hpa-an

the view vika

Our last leg of our Burma journey landed us in Hpa-an, a remote village about 8 hours south of Yangon. We took a boat from Mawlamyine for about 3 hours, on which we met an older Canadian couple who ran an NGO in Cambodia.  We had a nice chat and it helped the time pass smoothly. Vicky and I aren’t really boat people. Not that we have anything against boats, but while some people love the views, I’d say get me there as fast as you can by bus. I guess we’re more about the destination than the journey – some travelers we are!

Man, was it hot!

I know it’s South East Asia, and South East Asia is hot, still, there are variations of that word. Sometimes Vicky and I walk around and it’s surprisingly reasonable. Other times, the sweat starts dripping from your face the minute you leave your dorm, and it doesn’t stop until you get back.

Lucky for me I have only two pairs of shirts…

But you can’t let the heat get the best of you. If we did, we’d never do anything. So we did what we’d do if it wasn’t 40 degrees Celsius – an 800m hike up a small mountain (Mt. Zwegabin) in Hpa-an.

We took a quick motorcycle ride from the outskirts of town and arrived at the foot of the mountain in no time. In front of us was a sea of Buddha pillars. Despite not being the main attraction we had come for, this was actually pretty cool.

view of the mountain 4

Unlike in China where they charge you $40 to go hiking, this mountain had no entrance fees. So we began our ascent, step after step, in 40 degree heat. On our way up, small groups of Burmese passed us in full clothing. I know it’s a conservative culture, but aren’t they dying of heat? Do people just get used to this – can someone answer that for me because I’m dying to know?

Vicky and I on the other hand weren’t fairing so well, and were stopping for 10 minute breaks every 10 steps.

view of the mountain

At this rate we would be camping out on the summit. My next move was to take off my shirt and tie it around my head to dam the sweat.

People probably thought I was pretending to be Rambo.

the view dave 2

I wish I could say the views were spectacular – they were OK.

the view_


Like all mountain summits in Asia, when we reached the top we got to a monastery. There were a few monks scurrying about but for the most part it was empty.  On account of the effort we put it, we decided to hang around for an hour. It was pleasant enough, even a bit spiritual one might say.

Just as we were about the leave a monk motioned to us, almost as if he was inviting us to sit down and grab a meal.

I was thinking way too literal at the time and thanked him for the offer but indicated we had to get down, it was getting late and I didn’t want to be out as night fell. Still, I can’t help but think we missed a golden opportunity to talk with a monk. Sometimes, our focus is too narrow and we clearly miss the opportunities that are being presented.

We made it down in half the time, only to have to hitch a ride into town, as no one was waiting for us at the bottom.

Would I recommend going to Hpa-an? Probably not. 

One more tip: do not climb a mountain in flip flops, unless of course you want your feet to look like this:

dirty feet


  • The boat from Mawlamyine is about 3 hours and we took an overnight bus back to Yangon.
  • We stayed at Soe Brothers, which isn’t very nice at all but it’s pretty much the only place in town.
  • You can take a motorcycle to the Mt Zwegabin. It’s well know and only a few bucks to get there and about 30 minutes away. No entrance fee.
  • It’s relatively easy to hitch a ride back if you want.
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9 Responses to Hiking In The Heat Of Hpa-an

  1. You rejected the monk’s offer? Aww. I can really imagine myself in that situation, with a clear goal in mind it is hard to deter myself with sudden changes to plan. I have to remind myself that those unpredictable things is what makes awesome memories.

    You guys are so silly to hike in flip flops. I can’t walk on an incline in flip flops. I’m impressed you made it in that footwear.

    Natalia | Always Trekking April 6, 2013 at 5:06 PM Reply
    • Yeah thinking back it was kinda foolish – happens!

      Dave and Vicky April 6, 2013 at 10:03 PM Reply
  2. Hey Dave-
    Do you have any good wifi spots while in Burma? I’ve been working on aggregating great wifi spots for digital nomads, and Burma is a tough one to find..

    Drew Meyers April 7, 2013 at 7:34 PM Reply
    • Hey Drew – The only wifi “hot spots” we used were part of our hostels. We will be coming out with a list of where we stayed in our soon to publish Burma Wrap Up. Cheers!

      Dave and Vicky April 8, 2013 at 1:08 AM Reply
  3. I think it’s great how you guys take time to discuss your mistakes along the way, or “should have done” moments. We all have that no matter what the journey is or how long. Did you guys delete your long reflective post about being bad bloggers? I liked that post. I wanted to respond to that lady about the english comment. I’m living in Shanghai right now, and it amazes me how often there is poor english written all over the place. It is shocking considering that they spend so much money on it. It was a completely valid point, and I’ve observed the same thing.

    Gabby April 7, 2013 at 8:20 PM Reply
  4. This was a fun read! 😉 Re: the flip flops, I wouldn’t have lasted hiking in them either; it’s gotta be rubber shoes for me. 🙂 Re: the heat, as a native, yes, you get used to it. We sometimes get 40 Celsius days, and we just learn to live with it. 🙂 In the height of summer, we start sweating the moment we leave the bathroom (if it’s a house without A/C). So we just drink lots of water, cold drinks or hot drinks. Why hot drinks? They make us sweat, and eventually cool us off. 🙂 So on a hot day, hot tea is the answer (yeah, it may seem silly). Happy safe travels!

    Katie April 13, 2013 at 5:29 AM Reply
    • aha, so you DO get used to it. Is that why everyone turns the AC off when it’s dripping hot in the mini van???

      Dave and Vicky April 13, 2013 at 10:44 AM Reply
  5. Yes, we get used to it. 🙂 It becomes blessedly cool around Dec to Feb, then turns hot again in March. Then rainy season (sometimes deluge & floods) from June to October. Just an interesting note – many people have birthdays here during July, Aug & September, because they were conceived during those cool months. 😉 I’m one of them, lol. Re: turning the A/C off, hmm, I don’t know. Maybe because the vans are kinda old and the A/C doesn’t work well anymore? And then the van is full of people, and the A/C doesn’t reach the guys at the back of the van. So in that case, sometimes it’s better to turn the A/C off, and just open the windows. Just a tip – get one of those foldable lightweight fans from street vendors (whether the plastic, wooden or woven-straw kind). You’ll need those fans – it’s gonna be worse in April and May! 😀 Happy safe and hot travels!

    Katie April 14, 2013 at 12:52 AM Reply

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